David Strom

It’s long past time for the nanny state crowd to sit down and shut up.

We’ve been hearing from them for years about the added health care costs of smoking and obesity, and have meekly submitted to ever greater regulation of our private lives in the name of promoting a greater public good, saving health care dollars.

A few hearty libertarian types have had the courage to push back against the tide based upon the quaint notion that it is nobody’s business we do or what we consume as long as it is legal.

But in an age where governments have the right to require seatbelt and helmet use and prohibit the ingestion of bad fats, the conventional wisdom is that there is no part of daily life that is beyond government regulation.

This is particularly true in matters of health. As government has assumed a greater and greater share of the cost of health care government officials have assumed a larger role in trying to cajole and regulate what and how we consume.

The intellectual backbone of the recent wars on smoking and obesity has been the contention that smoking and being fat are not truly private matters, inasmuch as our individual health status imposes costs on society at large. Being a smoker, or being fat, costs society dearly because it is more expensive to treat unhealthy people than healthy people.

By this logic literally everything we do would be a legitimate target of regulation because most choices we make directly or indirectly impact our lifespan, mental health status, or other variables that social engineers might find of interest.

As a proponent of individual freedom and responsibility, I don’t accept this premise as many do. But what if the underlying argument is false? What if smokers or fat people aren’t more expensive to society?

What if they actually are cheaper to care for than their better behaved counterparts? What then happens to the intellectual framework that has propped up the recent spate of social engineering projects aimed at changing our habits through coercive means?

Well, according to a study performed by the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, those unhealthy fat people and smokers turn out to be just that: actually cheaper to care for.

Healthy people, you see, live longer and cost more. And, just like their less healthy counterparts, they still get sick and die eventually.

David Strom

David Strom is the President of the Minnesota Free Market Institute. He hosts a weekly radio show on AM-1280 "The Patriot" in Minneapolis-St. Paul, available on podcast at Townhall.com.

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